Ferdinand, Baron von Richthofen - Encyclopedia

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FERDINAND RICHTHOFEN, BARON VON (1833-1905), German geographer and traveller, was born near Karlsruhe, Silesia, on the 5th of May 1833. He was educated at Breslau and Berlin, and in 1856 carried out geological investigations in the Tirol, subsequently extending them to Transylvania. In 1859 he accompanied as geologist the Prussian diplomatic mission to the Far East under Count von Eulenburg, and visited Ceylon, Japan, Formosa, the Philippines and Java, subsequently making an overland journey from Bangkok to Moulmein and reaching Calcutta in 1862. No important work resulted from these travels, for much of Richthofen's records and collections was lost. China was at the time inaccessible owing to the Taiping rebellion, but Richthofen was impressed with the desirability of exploring it, and after a visit to California, where he remained till 1868, he returned to the East. In a remarkable series of seven journeys he penetrated into almost every part of the Chinese Empire. He returned home in 1872, and a work comprising three large volumes and an atlas, which, however, did not cover the entire field or complete the author's plan, appeared at Berlin in 1877-85 under the title of China; Ergebnisse eigner Reisen and darauf gegriindeter Studien. In this standard work the author deals not only with geology but with every subject necessary to a general geographical treatise. Notably he paid close attention to the economic resources of the country he traversed; he wrote a valuable series of letters to the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce, and first drew attention to the importance of the coalfields of Shantung, and of Kiaochow as a port. In 1875 Richthofen was elected professor of geology at Bonn, but being fully occupied with his work in China he did not take up professorial duties till 1879; in 188 3 he became professor of geography at Leipzig, and in 1886 was chosen to the same office at Berlin, and held it till his death. His lectures attracted numerous students who subsequently became eminent in geographical work, and in order to keep in touch with them he established his weekly geographical "colloquium." Of his written works, besides that on China, there may be mentioned "Die Kalkalpen von Voralberg and Nordtirol" in Jahrbuch der geologischen Reichsanstalt (1859-1861); "Die Metallproduktion Kaliforniens" in Petermanns Mitteilungen (1865); Natural System of Volcanic Rocks (San Francisco, 1867); Aufgaben and Methoden der heutigen Geographie (an address delivered at Leipzig, 1883); Fiihrer fiir Forschungsreisende (Berlin, 1886); Triebkrdite and Richtungen 'der Erdkunde in neunzehnten Jahrhundert (address on his election as rector, Berlin, 1903). He was for many years president of the German Geographical Society, and he founded the Berlin Hydrographical Institute. He died on the 16th of October 1905.

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